Warning: Delete old emails now or you’ll pay for them later

Don't bust your email storage limit in Microsoft Outlook web mail

Email illustration: Mange your email storage in Outlook web mail

Some people have discovered that after years of sending and receiving emails for free, that it will no longer be free in the future. They have been warned they must pay. What is going on?

I recently saw an article that said Loyal Hotmail and Outlook users must now pay to keep emails, Microsoft warns. It is a bit of a non-story really and headline click bait. Loyal Hotmail and Outlook users have nothing to worry about and if you manage your email correctly, you will not be asked to pay. Your free email will continue to be free.

However, that headline is not completely untrue and some people could be required to pay for their Hotmail or Outlook email. The problem is that anyone who has had an email account for many years could be nearing their email storage limit and that is why some people have been receiving warnings on their account.

The longer you have had an email account and the more emails you send and receive, the more you risk hitting the storage limit. People that have had Hotmail for 20 years, which became Outlook in 2013, could have many gigabytes of old emails. Sending and receiving messages with bulky attachments like photographs, files and PDFs will hit their storage limit much sooner.

Most, maybe all email services have storage limits. This is especially true of free email services where storage is often quite limited. There are 15 GB storage limits on Outlook and Gmail, which is actually quite a reasonable amount, but many other email services have even lower limits and some are as low as 5 GB.

This is a great reason to delete old emails: Your inbox may be full or nearly full. At some point in time you will need to manage your email storage and clean it up to free up space. This will enable you to continue using it for free. If you cannot bear to delete old emails or if they are too important to delete, then the only option open to you is to pay for more storage.

Check Outlook email storage

  1. Go to Outlook.com in a browser
  2. Click the gear icon at the right of the toolbar
  3. At the bottom of the Settings panel, click View all Outlook settings
  4. Select General in the first column
  5. Select Storage in the second column
  6. View your storage in the third column
Outlook web mail storage view
Outlook web mail storage

Microsoft has improved the Storage screen and what used to be a plain and simple display of free and used space is now a very nice display with a detailed breakdown of where the space is being used.

Outlook web mail storage view
See what’s using the space in Outlook web mail

You can see how much space each folder uses and by clicking the arrow on the right, there are options to delete messages older than 3 months, 6 months or 12 months. To be honest, I don’t find those options useful and as a long time user something more like 3 years, 6 years and 12 years would be more appropriate!

How do you find old emails to delete and free up storage space? Emails are listed in date order in the inbox, so you could simply keep scrolling back until you get to them. Good luck with that, it could take forever if you have a lot of emails. Some people have tens of thousands!

Find emails by date in Outlook web app

  1. Go to your inbox and at the top of the page is a search box
  2. Click the down arrow at the right of the search box
  3. Choose where to search – All Folders is a good choice
  4. At the bottom of the form, click the Date from field and select the start date, like 01/01/2010
  5. Click the to field and enter the end date, like 01/01/2015
  6. Click Search and all emails between those dates are listed
Search Outlook web mail for emails by date

Now that you have a list of old emails you probably will never need ever again, click Delete all at the top of the Results list.

Text emails use little storage space and it is mainly attachments that consume the most space. Tick the Attachments box at the bottom of the search form to find only emails that have attachments. These are the biggest emails and deleting them will free up the most space.

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